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I’m spending a couple of days at my sister’s in order to do work in the garden, consequently I have to choose from among several adorable animals. So, I’m giving everyone an update on Smudge, the friendly squirrel.

I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. This isn’t the first time this has happened. They’re wild animals, of course. The chipmunks, who are very territorial and also earth bound, are more predictable. The squirrels come and go. I understand that they’re territorial as well, but they appear to have large, overlapping ranges.

A couple of years ago, when I first started getting friendly with the squirrels, my sister pointed at Smudge and said that she thought that I was giving her too many treats because she looked fat. Well, call us naive. A few weeks later, she showed up again with a significantly smaller belly and swollen teats. Perhaps we didn’t expect it because it was late winter. However, it seems that gray squirrels typically have two litters a year, in February and June or July. Predictable, I’ve seen Smudge get a big belly twice a year until this winter when she seems to have not bred. I wondered if she was perhaps getting on in years.

Well, apparently she’s not as old as all that because she came by the other day and she seems to be big again.

A squirrel eating a peanut.Another friendly female, Spot, also is sporting a big belly. Compare the old lady to a young, trim male, and I think you can see the difference.A photo of a young male squirrel.

Not me. The Jay.A Blue Jay in a treel

I’ve mentioned it elsewhere before, but since I put up posts on quite a few different subjects, I don’t know if there are many people who read the majority of them, so pardon me if I repeat myself. About two summers ago, I started feeding a chipmunk out of my hand, mainly because it amused me that he had gotten so friendly. Eventually, the squirrels got in on the action. Meanwhile, there had been this Blue Jay that hung around watching. If a stray peanut was missed by a squirrel, he’d swoop down and get it. He especially seems to love peanuts. (unsalted only)

A Blue Jay taking off with a peanut in its beak.

Not being very original with names, I call him “Blue.”

The black markings that encircle the Blue Jay’s head and face are unique to each bird. Researchers think that they use these markings to identify one another. We have several Blue Jays that come near the bird feeder, but I have difficulty telling them apart by their markings if they’re not sitting side by side. However, I suspect it’s the same Jay that comes when I call the squirrels.

The neighbors must wonder why they keep finding peanuts in their flower beds.

A three footed squirrel eating birdseed on the ground.

Really, there’s a long explanation for how it came about, but let’s just say that I feed some of the squirrels that live in my sister’s backyard. Smudge is by far the friendliest. Sometimes she follows me around like a dog when I’m gardening. I’ve become fascinated by their social lives because on the one hand they’re can be solitary and territorial. On the other they can be quite sociable. I haven’t yet figured out how they decide which other squirrels they tolerate, which ones they play with and which ones get chased away.
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This fellow appears to be friendly with my friend Smudge. Smudge is very jealous of her relationship with the magical peanut dispenser and threatens most other squirrels who approach me. However, she tolerates Tripod. The fellow has half a tail and only three feet.

Tripod, the three legged squirrel running up a tree with a peanut in his mouth.
He’s one of the most timid of the squirrels. He never starts fights and always runs away if another squirrel threatens him. He’ll come close to me to get a peanut, but he always moves quickly, so it’s hard to get a good picture of him.

Tripod enjoying his peanut high up in a tree.

Despite his disability, he gets around pretty well.